What is it about?

Chemsex, a phenomenon involving the use of psychoactive substances in sexual contexts to facilitate or enhance sexual experiences, is substantially increasing among men who have sex with men (MSM), and has been described as a significant risk factor for mental and physical illness. However, no specialized treatment approach has yet been established. Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) could potentially be an appropriate psychotherapeutic framework, especially considering the MSM and sexual minority unique challenges and the role of psychological flexibility in this context. The present paper describes the assessment and ACT interventions, reports and discusses the results, of 10 adult MSM who self-referred to an outpatient psychiatry and addiction department in France for self-reported problematic chemsex that interfered with their quality of life. They completed symptom- and process-based measures at three different timepoints. Results were quantitatively analyzed, and the clinician’s session notes and patients’ experiences/accounts, recorded verbatim, served as a support for evaluating the global effects of ACT interventions. Results on outcome measures showed clinically notable and statistically significative improvements in psychological flexibility, anxiety and depression symptoms, as well as sexual addiction intensity between pre- and posttreatment, which were all persistent at 3- to 4-month follow-up. Process measure results indicated a high and consistent therapeutic alliance throughout therapy. This exploratory study, directly derived from clinical practice, suggests promising preliminary results. It can provide clinicians with a useful resource for using ACT as a potentially effective approach for problematic chemsex and comorbidities, and may guide future investigation to inform treatment development efforts, especially for MSM and sexual minority communities.

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Why is it important?

The results from this exploratory study can be a useful resource to inform the use of evidence-based ACT with sexual minority individuals engaging in chemsex, notably MSM, and potentially presenting with psychiatric comorbidities. This study provides preliminary quantitative results and insight into how interventions can be implemented. Promising findings suggested in this study should be further investigated in a more rigorous design, to inform approach development efforts, particularly for MSM and sexual minorities.

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Approach for Problematic Chemsex Among Men Who Have Sex With Men, Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, June 2023, Elsevier,
DOI: 10.1016/j.cbpra.2023.05.002.
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